HARTFORD, CT — Federal anti-poverty programs started more than 50 years ago to help the neediest Americans would be completely wiped out by Republican President Donald Trump’s budget.
Connecticut’s nine Community Action Agencies that administer funding from those programs would likely have to shutter their doors or try to stay open and offer fewer services to Connecticut residents, if Trump’s budget is approved.
More than 200 employees and clients of those nine agencies were at the state Capitol in Hartford Thursday to remind lawmakers that any additional funding cuts would further devastate and possibly eliminate their agencies.
The agencies, which are federally funded through the Community Services Block Grant and receive some state funding, served more than 357,500 people last year.
Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has proposed cutting the funding for the agencies by about 20 percent. Trump’s budget would completely eliminate the programs that the agencies offer.
Trump’s proposal would eliminate the Community Services Block Grant, Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, Weatherization Assistance Program, and Meals on Wheels Program. Early estimates provided by the Connecticut Association for Community Action show that the state receives $7.2 million from the Community Services Block Grant, $80 million from the Low Income Heating Assistance Program, and $2.3 million for weatherization.
Trump’s budget outline suggests that the Community Services Block Grant funds are “duplicative of other Federal programs, such as emergency food assistance and employment services, and is also a limited-impact program.”
“If the governor and the president’s proposals pass, the impact would be huge,” Deborah Monahan, executive director of the Thames Valley Council for Community Action, said. “In Connecticut — and across the country — millions of people in need will be left without nutritious foods, heat to stay warm, adequate housing, and other services that they need to maintain their lives.”
She said Trump’s budget proposal would wipe out “the nation’s safety net, which is the Community Action Agencies.”
Peter DeBiasi, president and CEO of the Access Community Action Agency, said they were in Washington when Trump released his budget proposal.
He said Connecticut’s congressional delegation is opposing the cuts and there’s bipartisan support for maintaining funding for community action agencies.
Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, who co-chairs the Appropriations Committee, said she thought cutting more than $850 million from last year’s budget was tough. She said this year the deficit is even bigger.
But she doesn’t want to focus solely on spending cuts this year.
“We’ve got to start talking about the revenues,” Walker said. “That has got to be a conversation for all of us.”
Radcliffe Bowen said he was helped by the Community Renewal Team of Hartford, one of the nine community action agencies.
Bowen said when he received a foreclosure notice for his house he didn’t know who to turn to for help. A friend told him about the Community Renewal Team and they helped him get a mortgage modification.
He said without their help he would have lost his home because he was unable to compete with the team of lawyers hired by the bank.
Amos Smith, president and CEO of the Community Action Agency of New Haven, said the reality is “we change people’s lives.”
He said they embody the spirit of “hope” that makes America a better place to live.
“We are about everybody. We care about the whole community,” Smith said.
He said they were at the state Capitol Thursday because “there are people in D.C. and Hartford that want to take that away from you, and that ain’t right.”
He said “you can’t promise jobs to people while taking the very life and breath out of their bodies.”
The crowd of clients and employees applauded.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally included total federal expenditure dollar amounts for CSBG, LIHEAP, and Weatherization. We have corrected the article to reflect what Connecticut had been receiving from the federal government for each.